THE INTERNATIONAL SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS

 

By ALFRED MATHIESON.

 

[7 Lessons]

 

LESSON 1. READING: 2 SAMUEL 5. GOLDEN TEXT. PSALM 21: 7.

 

ANALYSIS

 

1 The Coronation of the King (vv. 1-5)

 

2. The Habitation of the King (vv. 6-9)

 

3. The Recognition of the King (vv. 11-12).

 

4. The Subjection of the King's Enemies (vv. 17-25).

 

EXPOSITION

 

Our lesson falls under two headings: Seeking the King, Serving the King. The once rejected David is now sought after by the tribes of Israel who declare unto him: "We are thy bone, and thy flesh."  They acknowledge and respond to God's declaration concerning him. "Thou shalt feed" - feed as a Shepherd - "My people Israel, and thou shalt be a Captain over Israel".  Ascending the throne, David captured the city of Jerusalem and dwelt there, and is recognized by Hiram, King of Tyre, who sends him presents.  The Philistines coming up against David are put in subjection.  It is to be noted that David enquired of the Lord, and the first time received the instruction, "Go up," but on the second occasion the answer comes, "Thou shalt not go up."  Here is a profound spiritual lesson that we are continually to ask God His guidance as to our way, and never presume on a previous direction.

 

David was taken from the lowly place of the sheepfold, and after long waiting and much testing was exalted to reign over Israel.  This chosen servant, the "sweet Psalmist of Israel" (2 Samuel 23: 1), in spite of all his failings was the man after God's own heart (Acts 13: 22).  Think how he trusted God; his testimony for God; his triumphs through God; and his thirsting after God.

 

David is a type of the Greater Shepherd and Captain the Lord Jesus Christ, and this chapter sets forth in typical illustration like a panorama events to come.  The Greater David is now rejected by Israel, but it is prophesied they shall yet "seek the Lord their God and David their King" (Joshua 3: 5), and shall yet "serve" Him (Jeremiah 30: 9).  Israel's Great Deliverer will come to the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14: 4), deliver Israel, and set up His Kingdom and reignTo Him shall the Gentiles ['nations', R.V.] seek (Isaiah 11: 10) - like Hiram to David - and the nations - like the Philistines - who refuse to bow down to Him shall be broken and brought into subjection (Psalm 2.).

 

All must seek the Greater David, and all must serve Him NOW if they are to have any part or lot in His glorious reign.  To those who bow the knee acknowledging Him as Saviour and Lord, and who serve Him faithfully, prepared to suffer with Him even unto death, He gives the radiant promise, "Him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne even as I also overcame and am set down with My Father in His throne" (Revelation 3: 21).

 

ILLUSTRATION

 

Joseph Rabinowitz was a lawyer residing in Kischimeff, Southern Russia, A Jew who had a wide and commanding influence among his Hebrew brethren as a scholar, a philanthropist and a lover of his nation.  He was selected about the year 1882, in connection with certain colonization efforts, to go to Palestine to secure land for planting Jewish emigrants who desired to flee from Russian persecution.  When fitting himself out with guide-books for his contemplated journey, he was advised to take a copy of the New Testament with him as furnishing an admirable directory to the sacred places of Jerusalem and the vicinity.  He did so, and while walking about Zion and gazing upon its historic sites, he carried this yet unopened treasure.  Going one day to the brow of the Mount of Olives, he sat down on the sacred hill and began contemplating the city as it lay at his feet.  Then came a train of reflections and questioning: Why this long desolation of the city of David?  Why this scattering of my people to the ends of the earth?  Why these fresh persecutions breaking forth against us in almost every country in Europe?  While he pondered these sad questions he gazed downward the reputed Calvary, where that holy prophet of his nation had been crucified.  As he did so his eyes were opened; he looked upon Him whom the nation had pierced.  In a flash the truth entered his heart: "We have rejected our Messiah! hence our long casting off and dispersion by Jehovah!"  He believed, he cried out to Jesus, "My Lord and my God," and almost as suddenly as Saul of Tarsus, Joseph Rabinowitz, from being a Hebrew of the Hebrews, had become an Israelite of the New Covenant, a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth.

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LESSON 2. READING 1 KINGS 10: 1-13; 11: 4-13. GOLDEN TEXT. LUKE 9: 25.

 

ANALYSIS

 

1 Kings 10: 1-13.

 

1. The Reputation of Solomon (v. 1).

 

2. The Reception of the Queen of Sheba (vv. 1-2).

 

3. The Interrogation of Solomon (v. 3).

 

4. The Inspection by the Queen of Sheba (vv. 4-7).

 

5. The Ascription by the Queen of Sheba (vv. 8-9).

 

6. The Presentation to Solomon (vv. 10-13).

 

1. The Displeasure of God with Solomon (vv. 9-11).

 

2. The Denunciation of Solomon (vv. 11-13).

 

EXPOSITION

 

This lesson may profitably be dealt with under three aspects: Personality, Typically and Practically.

 

1. The Personal.  Tremendous is the contrast between the exhalation and denunciation of Solomon.  Humility characterized the beginning of his reign, but humiliating was its end.  When God said to him, "Ask what I shall give thee," Solomon humbly asked for wisdom, and God, pleased with his choice, granted also riches, wealth and honour (2 Chronicles 1: 12), and made him the greatest king the world has ever known.  To him also was given the commission to build the Temple for God.  His reputation went far afield, and the Queen of Sheba journeyed to see him and find out the truth "concerning the name of the Lord" (v. 1).  Proving Solomon with her questions she is amazed at his wisdom and overpowered by the magnificence of his glory, and pours out an ascription of praise.  All this was given him by God, but tempted by his wives which he had contrary to Deuteronomy 17: 14-20, he turned aside from God and worshiped idols.  In spite of God's warnings and promises (1 Kings 9: 1-9) he went in the path of disobedience, bringing upon him God's displeasure and declaration that the kingdom would be rent from him.

 

2. The typical.  It is clear that Solomon [in some respects] is a type of Christ.  The name Solomon means "Peaceable," and in his days peace and quietness was given to Israel, a type of Him Who is the Prince of Peace, and Who during His Millennial reign will inaugurate peace and rest to this restless chaotic world (Psalm 72: 7). Wealth and glory marked Solomon's reign to an extent unknown before or since, and which will not be again until He Who is the Greater than Solomon reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords.  To Solomon was given wisdom, but Wisdom shall then sit on the throne and "all nations shall call Him blessed" (see Psalm 72).  The Temple was built in Solomon's day, and in the day of Israel's restoration the last and greatest Temple will be built (Ezekiel 40.-47).  The Queen of Sheba brought gifts to Solomon and so will the kings to the King of kings (Psalm 72: 10, 11: Zechariah 14: 16-19).

 

3. The Practical.  Solomon's glory and downfall is a tremendous lesson to us.  It is a painful revealing of the self life.  The effect of one wilful act is like the effect produced by allowing a single drop of ink to fall into a glass of pure water, the whole becomes contaminated.  True life, wisdom and glory is only to be obtained from God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Coming to God by faith we are justified from all things, but there must be added a constant walk with Him in a sanctified life in order to please Him.

 

ILLUSTRATION

 

A relief life-boat was built at London some years ago.  While the workmen were busy over it, one man lost his hammer.  Whether he knew it or not it was nailed up in the bottom of the boat.  Perhaps if he found it out, he thought the only harm done was the loss of one hammer.  But the boat was put to service, and every time it rocked on the waves that hammer was tossed to and fro.  Little by little it wore for itself a track, until it had worn through planking and keel, down to the very copper plating, before it was found out.  Only that plate of copper kept the vessel from sinking.  It seemed a very little thing in the start, but see what mischief it wrought.  So it is with a little sin in the heart.  It may break through all the restraints that surround us, and but for God's great mercy sink our souls in endless ruin.  A few evil words in a child's ear have rung in his soul for twenty years, and brought untold harm.  It is the sin hidden in our hearts that we should most fear.  There are none that do not need to offer up the prayer: "Cleanse Thou me from secret faults."

 

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LESSON 3. READING. 1 COR. 9: 24-27; PHIL. 3: 12-14; GOLDEN TEXT. HEB. 12: 1, 2.

 

ANALYSIS

 

1 COR. 9: 24-27.

 

1. The Race and the Reward (v. 24).

 

2. The Runner and the Rules (vv. 25-27).

 

PHIL. 3: 12-14.

 

1. The Unattained Prize (v. 12).

 

2. The Unabated Perseverance (v. 13).

 

3. The Unquenched Passion (v. 14).

 

HEB. 12: 1, 2.

 

1. The Personal Consecration (v. 1).

 

2. The Patient Continuance (v. 1).

 

3. The Perfect Conqueror (v. 2).

 

EXPOSITION

 

Spiritual life is vividly depicted under various figures, and the one before us is that of an Athlete.  The figure is taken from the Greek athletic festivals, with the focus especially upon the oldest and most famous of the events, the footrace.  The Christian life is therefore portrayed as a strenuous, self-denying, sacrificial contest.  To enter the Greek contest certain conditions had to be fulfilled.  They had to prove they were of pure Greek blood, that they had not forfeited the right of citizenship by misconduct, and had undergone the ten month's training and diet prescribed.  The first step to entering the Christian contest is to possess the life of Christ.  As only a Greek of pure blood could enter the Greek contest, and there was no exception, so is it in the Christian race.  Every runner must have been born into the family of God through faith in Christ Jesus as Saviour and Lord.  The race begins at the Cross, and everyone must first possess his badge of pardon, peace, purity and power.  Having then the essential condition of entry, there is set before us the Race and the Reward.  Three things will characterize the runner filled with the holy ambition of obtaining the prizeHe will give earnest attention, put forth strong exertion, and possess unwavering determination.  Only those who have this attitude of heart can hope to win.  Then we must be stripped for the race, unhindered by any encumbrance. "Laying aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us."  What are the weights? "the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things" (Mark 4: 19).  We must keep the flesh in subjection and exercise self-denial and self-restraint.  In short, there must be death to the self-life, and absolute personal consecration.  The will must be wholly yielded to God, and only His will sought.  There must be the continual reckoning of ourselves dead to sin, and in order to win the great reward of the sanctified life there will needs be a refraining from that which is lawful, because it is not expedient. In our own strength all this is impossible, and is only made possible by the power of God given us through the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1: 19-21).  Paul's cry must ever be ours, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Philippians 4: 13). Paul declared that he had not attained the perfection desired nor grasped the prize, but forgetting past attainments he pressed forward with unabated perseverance, with patient continuance and unquenched passion, having his eye upon the perfect Example and Conqueror, his Lord and Master.  He who would win the prize must keep to the track, "strive lawfully," be watchful and continue instant in prayer.

 

What is the prize?  Not a fading laurel wreath, the reward of the Greek runner, but an incorruptible crown; a crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4: 8), and of life* (James 1: 12; Revelation 2: 10).

 

[*Not "eternal life" which is a free gift (Rom. 6: 23, R.V.), but life in the age to come, (Lk. 20: 35. cf. Heb. 2: 5.).]

 

ILLUSTRATION

 

Jerry McAuley, the notorious river-thief of New York, whose lawlessness made him the terror of the police, was, while in prison serving out his sentence, brought to a saving knowledge of Christ. After seven and a half years in Sing Sing, Jerry came out of prison with blighted life and reputation; but, surrendered to his Lord, he went back to his old haunts of crime and began to work for souls.  In 1872 the Water Street Mission, New York, took shape as an institution, and Jerry and Maria McAuley began there the ten years' work whose grand results we shall never measure until the "Books" are opened.  Night after night, week after week, year after year, they laboured in their humble way seeking and saving the lost.  They fed the hungry, sheltered the outcast, trusted the unworthy, and taught the most ignorant; and by simple patience and love constrained the worst men and women to newness of life.  Jerry McAuley gave himself up to God to be filled and used, and with undaunted perseverance that triumphed over all obstacles the work was carried on, and a night rarely passed without some marked case of conversion.

 

On September 21st, 1884, at the Broadway Tabernacle in New York City, there was such a gathering as that metropolis had ever known before.  The building was thronged and even the street was blocked by a crowd that was a strange mixture of merchants and ministers, lawyers and bankers, roughs and rowdies.  It was the funeral of Jerry McAuley; and all ranks and classes were there to lay their tributes side by side upon his coffin, and shed their tears together over the dust of the man who had done so much to rescue the perishing from a life of sin, and to pluck brands from the burning.

 

He had run the race, he had finished the course; the prize lay before him

 

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LESSON 4. READING: ISAIAH 9: 1-7. GOLDEN TEXT ISAIAH 9: 6.

 

ANALYSIS

 

1. The Dawn (vv. 1-5).

 

2. The Deliverer (vv. 6,7).

 

EXPOSITION

 

The previous chapter (Isaiah 8.) closes on the note of deepest sadness as it depicts the darkness to fall upon Israel, and their being thrust out into the darkness because of sin.  Zebulun and Napthali had been brought down into the distress and disgrace, but our chapter opens with the promise of the dawn of a new Day when the darkness would be dispelled by the outshining of light.

 

"Ever since the times of the judges, all these lands had been exposed, on account of the centuries that joined them, to corruption from Gentile influence, and subjugation by heathen foes.  The northern tribes ... suffered the most in the almost incessant war between Israel and the Syrians, and afterwards between Israel and the Assyrians; and the transportation of their inhabitants, which continued under Pul, Tiglath, Pileser, and Shalmanassar, amounted at last to utter depopulation.  But these countries would be the very first that would be remembered when the first morning dawn of glory should break" (Delitzsch).  How that coming "morning dawn of glory" did break upon those darkened countries is revealed in Matthew 4: 13-16, where we read of the advent of the Messiah, the Light of life.  Brought to the depths of distress they were lifted to the height of glory, for God walked in their midst.  God, manifest in the flesh, dwelt among them.  They heard His wondrous words; they beheld His wondrous works.

 

From what follows it would appear that verse 2 has a wider application and includes all Israel.  We have here a prophetic vision of Israel seeing the light of their redemption, multiplying under the favour of God, filled with joy, delivered from bondage and opposition as in the time of Gideon, the military equipment of their enemies burned in the fire, and peace and prosperity established.  And how is this accomplished?  By the coming of the Deliverer, the Great King, Whose name is "Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace."  This is none other than Jesus the God-Man, to Whom the promise of eternal sovereignty has been made and upon Whose shoulder the future government of Israel and the world rests.  His name is Wonderful.  Not only is He wonderful in all His ways, but He is Himself a wonder beyond human conception.  Also is He Counsellor, needing not to surround Himself with counsellors, and needing not counsel, for He possesses "the Spirit of Counsel" (Isaiah 11: 2).  He is Wisdom un-shadowed and undimmed.  As the Mighty God He is able to accomplish His counsels and fulfil His will.  He is Divine, All-Powerful, breaking all powers that may rise against Him.  As the Everlasting Father He is the possessor of eternity and the embodiment of love.  Then He is the Prince of Peace Who, at His Second Advent, will remove the peace-disturbing powers and establish peace upon THIS sin-stricken, chaotic earth (see Isaiah 2.; 11.).

 

ILLUSTRATION

 

It is related to the annals of the Ottoman Empire that when Amurath II died suddenly, his son and successor was about a day's journey distant.  Every day of interregnum in that fierce Monarchy is attended with peril.  The death of the deceased Sultan was therefore concealed, and a secret message dispatched to the prince to hasten at once to the capital.  On receiving the message, he leaped on a powerful Arab charger, and turning to his attendants said, "Let him who loves me, follow!"  There is another Prince - the Prince of Peace - who says to those around Him, "Let him who loves Me, follow."

 

* * * * * * *

 

LESSON 5. READING: MATTHEW 20: 1-6 GOLDEN TEXT. MICAH 6: 8.

 

ANALYSIS

 

1. The Vineyard.

 

2. The Vocation.

 

3. The Vision.

 

4. The Verdict.

 

EXPOSITION.

 

This parable was called forth by the question of Peter in the previous chapter, and its keynote is service and reward. The verses (19: 30; 20: 16) prefacing and concluding the parable are to be noted, of which the parable is an illustration.

 

The vineyard is the kingdom of heaven; the householder is God; the steward is Christ in His capacity as Judge, and the labourers are those by faith have responded to the call and received eternal life. Every Christian is called to work in God's vineyard, for in His economy there can be no idlers.  The different hours appear to refer to the church age and to different periods of her history, but there is also an application to individual life and experience.  Those called at the first hour agree to labour for a penny for the day, but at the sixth, ninth, and eleventh hours, that which was just was promised as a reward to the labourers.  The central truth of the parable is contained in the passages dealing with the giving of the reward. At the end of the day the steward called the labourers "beginning from the last unto the first," and to the last was a penny given.  The first seeing this expected to receive more, but they also received a penny, their agreed reward.

 

But with this they were dissatisfied and murmured.  They complained that the last had only served one hour whilst they had borne the heat of the day, and inferred that "the good man of the house" was dealing unjustly with them.  The reply they receive is that no injustice is done them; on the contrary the promised reward has been given, but he who dispenses justice has also the right to dispense grace and give the same reward to those who worked in the last hour, willing to do so without knowing the reward to be granted.  The parable is held up to the Apostles, Jewish Christians, and to the redeemed individually, showing that in the service what is vital is the attitude of heart of the labourer.  The service must not be one merely of duty but of devotion.  The first exhibited their legal hearts and that the spirit of their service was mercenary, envious and selfish.  They did not rejoice that even at the last hour response was given to the householder, and workers entered the vineyard simply resting in his goodness, nor did they rejoice in the grace exhibited.  "A mercenary spirit destroys the position of the labourer in the kingdom of God: he makes merchandise of the calling of God (instead of being a fellow-worker, he becomes an unfaithful hired servant); he converts the Word of God into mere traditions, the work of faith into a burden, the hope of reward into a claim, and the blessings granted into a judgement."  The lesson of the parable then is that whilst service in the vineyard is the calling of every Christian, that service to be acceptable for the high rewards of grace must spring from a heart of love and devotedness to God.  Not merely serving for the reward's sake in the narrow-souled legal spirit, but out of a loving heart and consecrated life to Him Who in infinite grace has given us the privilege of serving Him.  So many - not all - that are first shall be last.  Many are called into the service, but few are chosen for the exalted places in the coming age. To be amongst the chosen there must needs be loving, loyal, whole-hearted, willing service from lives walking in holiness and clothed with humility.

 

ILLUSTRATION

 

Whose heart has not thrilled at the story of Delia, the sin-marred queen of a Mulberry street drive, and of her rescue from a life of shame?  Yet it was burning love for Christ in her heart which led Mrs. Whittemore to seek to save this lost one.  And then Love begot Love.  For saved to the uttermost this rescued one broke the alabaster box of her redeemed life as an offering of sweetest savour at the feet of Him Whose love had saved her, and went forth to tell the story of that love to others.  In prisons, in the slums, in street meetings, wherever this ransomed one told the story of Him Who loved us and gave Himself for us, the Holy Ghost so fired her soul that strong, sin-hardened men, bowing and sobbing under her thrilling, impassioned words, were swept by scores into the kingdom of God.  For one brief year the love life of God streamed brimful through the open channel of her surrendered being; quickening, thrilling all with whom she came in touch, and then she went to be with Him Who was the fountain of her abounding life.

 

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LESSON 6. READING: MATTHEW 25: 14-30. GOLDEN TEXT. MATTHEW 25: 21.

 

ANALYSIS

 

1. The Delegation of the Talents (vv. 14, 15).

 

2. The Demonstration of the Trading (vv. 16-25).

 

3. The Diligence Required (vv. 26-29).

 

4. The Deliverance of the Judgement (v. 30).

 

EXPOSITION

 

Whilst the parable in our previous lesson showed the attitude of heart required in serving God, this parable reveals the activity and fidelity demanded.  The Lord is the "man travelling into a far country" delivering His goods unto His servants ([regenerate] believers).  The distribution of the talents is in the proportion of five, two and one, and each received according to his ability.  According to the known ability of each was the distribution made so that there could be no excuse for unfaithfulness, nor could any complain that the gift was greater than his power could sustain.  The gifts are not natural endowments, but spiritual gifts distributed according to natural ability.  Upon believers only are these gifts bestowed.  They are Christ's "own servants," and are therefore made stewards for Him.  "As every man hath received the gift even so minister the same one to another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God" (1 Peter 4: 10).  In a former lesson natural wealth is set forth, but here it is the management of spiritual riches.  For the gifts see Ephesians 4: 8, 11, 13; 1 Corinthians 12: 8-11, etc.  The trading with the talents is the use of the gifts for the glory of God, and faithfulness in their use operates to the bestowal of more gifts He who possessed the five talents made other five; and the two also gained other two.

 

The "long time" of the parable is the period of testing until the Lord returns.  At His return He reckons with His servants. "Everyone of us shall give account of himself to God" (Romans 14: 12).  The possessor of the five talents showing that he has gained five more is commended by his hold, receives the reward of being made a ruler, and enters into the joy of his Lord.  Likewise was it with the possessor of the two talents.

 

Then comes the one with the one talent, and he begins by accusing his lord.  This accusation was made to cover his own negligence. Then he says, "I was afraid and hid my talent."  The true reason was, he was afraid of the responsibility, and sought to evade it.  His thought was centred on self, not on his lord.  But his excuse is rejected, for his lord is angry and calls him "a wicked and slothful servant."  His accusations are unfounded, his neglect inexcusable, and he stands convicted before the other two.  His talent is taken and given to the one who has ten.  Lack of space prevents us from entering into all details of the parable.  Solemn are the closing verses (29, 30) of the parable with the lord's pronouncement on the slothful servant.  Do these words apply to a believer?  Yes, such a believer "suffers loss," although they do not mean that he loses eternal life.  No believer dare presume upon grace, or dare trifle with a holy God.  To be pleasing unto the Lord means that we give heed to His Word; "That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience [perseverance] inherit the promises" (Hebrews 5: 12).

 

ILLUSTRATION

 

"The first time I ever saw Mr. Moody," said Mr. Reynolds of America, "was in a little shanty that had been abandoned by a saloon keeper. Mr. Moody had got the place to hold a meeting in at night.  I was there a little late, and the first thing I saw was a man standing up with a few tallow candles around, holding a negro boy, and trying to read to him the story of the Prodical Son, and a great many of the words he could not make out and had to skip.  I thought if the Lord can ever use such an instrument as that for His honour and glory, it will astonish me.  After the meeting was over Mr. Moody said to me, Reynolds, I have only one talent; I have no education, but I love the Lord Jesus Christ, and I want to do something for Him, and I want you to pray for me.  I have never ceased from that day until this, morning and night, to pray for that devoted Christian soldier."

 

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LESSON 7. READING: 2 TIM. 2: 1-13; 1COR. 11: 1; 2 Tim. 4: 7-8. GOLDEN TEXT. JOHN 15: 13.

 

ANALYSIS

 

2 Tim. 2: 1-13.

 

1. The Exhortation (vv. 1-3).

 

2. The Illustration (vv. 9-10).

 

3. The Foundation (v. 8).

 

4. The Persecution (vv. 9-10).

 

5. The Coronation (vv. 11-13).

 

1 Cor. 11: 1. The Invitation.

 

2 Tim. 4: 7-8.

 

1. The Declaration (v 7).

 

2. The Expectation (v. 8).

 

EXPOSITION

 

The Second Epistle to Timothy is Paul's farewell letter to his son in the faith.  Paul is facing a martyr's death, and he pens this letter to his beloved Timothy, bidding him, in the midst of growing dangers and terrors, to be strong in his living Lord.  He exhorts him to courage and effort by strengthening himself in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  The word "therefore" harks back to the previous chapter wherein Timothy is reminded of his holy home, of God's gift, power and calling, of Paul's sufferings and his Mighty Keeper in the midst of them.  This leads on to the exhortation to Timothy to turn to his source of strength, the grace in Christ.  In every circumstance he was to draw upon the resources of God, embracing the fullness of Grace that he might be empowered to witness, and enabled to endure.  And this Grace is in Christ.  But the two are inseparable, and after all it is Himself as our Source of Power, our Place of Safety and our Treasury of Fullness.  In Him, therefore, Timothy is to strengthen himself, and that strength is to issue in the practical work of committing to others the holy Gospel committed to him.  In this holy service; in the campaign of his Lord, surrounded by opposing and malignant forces, Timothy is exhorted to "endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ." In order to enforce his appeal Paul sets before Timothy three illustrations of this intense life for Christ - the Soldier, the Athlete, and the Farmer.  The first figure is that of a soldier on campaign, and as in the earthly sphere, the soldier is detached from all other interests and pursuits, so in the heavenly, the surrender to the Lord must be wholehearted, the separation from the world, complete.  The illustration of the Athlete (v 5) has already been dealt with in a former lesson, and we merely remark that the victor's crown, the reward for the earnest life, can only be obtained by giving heed to the rules of life laid down by God.  Thirdly, we have the Farmer.  There is nothing spectacular in this occupation, and the lesson conveyed is the outworking as the Lord's servant, in ploughing, sowing, tending and reaping, of that great and necessary quality, patience, the patience that fails not!  Before Timothy is then brought the One Who is the Foundation of his faith and the Example of his life, the Risen Christ. "Remember Jesus Christ risen from the dead:" - a Conquering Saviour, a Compassionate High Priest, a Coming King.

 

To live for Him and to serve Him means that we shall endure suffering and persecution, declares the great Apostle, who was then himself in bonds, but to willingly know the "fellowship of His sufferings" is to enter into fellowship of His sovereigntyThe crowning of the suffering Saviour is linked to the crowning of the suffering saint.  The Apostle invites us to follow his footsteps, for he followed in the path of Christ.  He is conscious of having been a victor in the fight and could declare his certain expectation of receiving the crown from the hand of his Lord and Saviour Whom he served and adored.  Let us follow our Lord all the way, so that at His Coming we may receive our crown and reward.

 

ILLUSTRATION

 

Some two hundred years ago, groups of weeping spectators stood one day on the shore of the Solway Firth.  They keep their eyes fixed on two objects.  There, two women, each tied fast by their arms and limbs to a stake, stand within the sea mark, and many an earnest prayer is going up to Heaven, that Christ would help them in their hour of need.  The elder of the two is staked the farthest out. Margaret Wilson, the young martyr, stands bound, a fair sacrifice, near by the shore.  On the big waves come, hissing to their naked feet, and eyed by these tender women with unflinching courage.  The waves rise and rise till, amid a cry of horror from the shore, the lessening form of her that had death first to face was lost in the foam of the surging wave.  "What see you yonder?" said their murderers to Margaret, as, while the waves rose cold on her own limbs, they pointed her attention to her fellow-confessor in the suffocating agonies of a protracted death.  Response full of the boldest faith and brightest hope, she firmly answered, "I see Christ suffering in one of His own members."

 

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"For what glory is it, if, when ye sin, and are buffeted for it, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye shall take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.  For hereunto ye were called: because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that ye should follow his steps" (1 Pet. 2:20, 21, R.V.).

END